Saturday, December 31, 2011


On the shortest day of the year we signed some papers, consumed enough pizza, beer, and carrot cake to feed a small army, and slept in a little lakeside cabin.  It was definitely the best wedding I have ever been to, and a sweet way to legally join myself to the man I love so much.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Behold: The Royale

Since becoming poultry parents our ladies have enjoyed free reign over the backyard.  This has been great, as I've never seen such happy hens, but we don't own this property, and the chickens have worn the yard down.  So, in the interest of letting the yard recover, not further exacerbate the situation, and to offer full-time security from predators, we have decided to confine the ladies.

While cooping up our chickens was the obvious choice, it has been a bit sad for us, as they really love to range as free birds. To console them, and us, Matt (with friends) built the ladies the luxurious, expansive, and super secure Coop Royale. 

The ingenious Coop Royale design connected our original tractor (to still allow them as much sunlight as possible and a cozy roosting box) to the dilapidated boathouse at the back of our yard.  There is a high school a few blocks away, and we couldn't seem to keep the teenagers out of the boathouse.  They like to skip class, smoke cigarettes, and guzzle energy drinks back there -- so now it will be locked and full of chicken shit.  That should do the trick.

The coop features a veritable chicken playground, with lots of places to climb and roost.  There is also a secluded nest box for the ladies to do their laying business in.  

We hope our beloved hens will appreciate the Coop Royale.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Checking In

So, it has been a little while, huh?  Now, I don't presume that any of my 5 (4? 3?) readers are put out by my month long absence, but I initially intended to update this joint about once a week.  And you know... it's good to have goals, so here I am, recommitted.  I aim high, you know?

So to catch all 3-5 of you up...

About a month ago we headed east to spend Thanksgiving weekend fishing, eating pie, and visiting with assorted members of my family. It was a pretty tasty time. I won't even mention the utterly disgusting staph infection I contracted somewhere along the way, but jesus, I can't help myself... sorry folks.

Back home, I finally made it onto the über exclusive VIP substitute teacher list (you think I'm joking...), the ladies started pumping out hella eggs, and vacation rolled around once again (oh, education).

Then, despite recent raccoon sightings, we left the ladies home alone in their fortified coop (just think of the coons as Joe Pesci),  and headed south on the train.  We made stops in Eugene, Portland and Cannon Beach-- the donuts were delicious and the weather stupendous. 

We made our triumphant return late last night, and boy oh boy is it nice to be home.   I can finally focus on working my way through the last few episodes of Trailer Park Boys.  Like I said, I aim high.

(watch this, but not if you are easily offended...)

Happy Festivus (for the rest of us)!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sugar Pie

Matt bought me this very rotund sugar pie pumpkin after witnessing my elation over a very large butternut squash.  

After an adequate period of admiration I cleaned, halved, baked, and pureed my pumpkin-- committing it  to pie duty.  

This was the first pumpkin pie I've ever made, and (as with most first time projects) I learned some things..

1.  Crust needs to be pre-baked when there is a custard filling involved.  People actually use pie weights  for this, as the crust will shrink without support.  I improvised by pre-baking the crust with a smaller pie pan supporting it.

2.  Pumpkin pies take a really, really long time to bake. Knifing the middle 12 times will not expedite the process.

The pies (I ultimately made two) were quite delicious.  I used this all butter crust recipe, and (after some heavy research) amalgamated several filling recipes.  It went something like this:

Pumpkin Pie Filling
3 eggs
1.25 cups half and half
2 C Pumpkin Puree 
.5-.75 C Brown Sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
1.5 t grated fresh ginger
1.5 t cinnamon 
1 t nutmeg
.5 t cloves

Whip eggs very well by themselves. Then, add half and half, pumpkin, spices, and sugar and whisk everything together very well.  Pour into an egg coated, pre-baked pie shell. Cook for a long ass time, and try not to poke the middle with too many knives...


Our girls are growing up!  For the last couple of weeks I've been regularly checking for eggs.  Finally, this morning, I found two-- one in the coop, and one under a tree.  I suspect both eggs are from the same hen, as she is large, in charge, and apparently an early bloomer...

The other ladies are not far behind, and will likely start popping eggs out in the next week or so.  Each hen will lay about 6 times a week, which translates to 3-4 fresh eggs per day for us!

Finding the first egg was a pretty thrilling farm moment.  I feel quite proud of our little ladies...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


On Thursday night, Matt and I took a quick and lovely pedal down to Bay View State Park to stay in a tiny (warm) cabin for the night.  In the morning we parted ways, and I headed home to catch a bus down to the big city to eat a ton of delicious food spend some time with a couple of my favorite ladies. 

Here are the photos I managed to take of my very Novemberish trip home...

Our cabin in the light of day.

The good old bicycle freeway. 

My cold wet feet (that did not have gangrene, as I had begun to suspect). 


For the last while a cute little spider has resided in our kitchen window. She (my gender assumption is probably rooted in Charlotte's Web) has built a pretty comfy looking web, and seems to enjoy a relatively predator-free existence. I know some folks would probably evict such a resident, but being a bit of a Buddhist I err on the side of caution.  I am simply not willing to rule out that she might be my great grandmother, you know?  

A couple of days ago, I noticed she'd made a big kill-- check out the huge fly in her web. The colder temperatures are making fruit flies, her usual fare, scarce. So, I hope that the big meal will hold her over for a few weeks!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Breakfast Muffins

My father appreciates the simple things-- bike rides, big lake trout, strong coffee, and crunchy cookies. I assume that not all of his peers are as affable in their interests, so I appreciate this quality of his a great deal. 

Now I'm not trying to get too Freudian (because that gets way too weird way too fast), but Matt is strikingly similar to my pops in this regard. The list even remains nearly identical, but definitely requires the distinct addition of, "any donut that ever existed." 

The reverence of deep-fried dough and sugar makes perfect sense to me, but in the interest of remaining diabetes-free, here is our household's alternative to the morning donut. These muffins are full of the good stuff, and might even include enough carrot to qualify as a vegetable (by public school standards, at least).

Apple Carrot Spice Muffins
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 cups rolled oats
1 T cinnamon
1 T nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp salt
2-3 medium sized carrots
1 apple
4 eggs
.5 cup milk
.5 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 T molasses
3 T maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla
1/3+ cup raisins
1/3+ cup crushed walnuts
Brown Sugar (optional)

Preheat Oven to 350° F
Use a food processor to grate the carrots and half of the apple. Dice the other half of the apple into chunks. Set the fruits and veggies aside with the raisins and walnuts. In a different bowl mix together the flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, (there are some dirty dishes involved) stir together all the wet ingredients: milk, eggs, oil, vanilla, molasses, and syrup. Slowly combine all 3 bowls (wet, dry, fruits/veggies), and stir until just combined. Do not over stir. After putting batter into a greased muffin in pan, lightly sprinkle brown sugar over the muffins (if desired). Cook muffins in greased muffin pan at 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Makes 13-14 large muffins.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Load of Shiitake

The first bathroom crop yielded about a pound of shiitake mushrooms.  Holy Shiitake!  Not bad for two weeks, eh?

Last night, I used about half of the mushrooms to make gravy.  Now, I've never made gravy, or cooked much with mushrooms, but the thought of gravy-covered mashed potatoes on a rainy Sunday evening helped commit me to my project. 


Before beginning, I consulted a few different recipes and parsed together a basic plan. My recipe was essentially as follows:

Shiitake Mushroom Gravy

1 yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cups chopped shiitake mushrooms
4 cups vegetable broth (I use vegetable bullion cubes to cut down on packaging)
4 T nutritional yeast
4 T flour
2-3 T soy sauce
olive oil
thyme and pepper to taste

Sauté the mushrooms in a healthy pour of olive oil until they become translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook all 3 until the mushrooms appear soft. Turn down heat and add the vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, flour. Stir until dissolved. If the gravy seems too liquid-y then add a little more flour. Turn up heat and bring to a boil. Add soy sauce, thyme, and pepper. Allow to simmer (with frequent stirs) until gravy has reached a desirable consistency, or until all the flavors have meshed.
Serve over tempeh, mashed potatoes, or both...

The gravy turned out deliciously, and we have a shiitake-load left. I foresee biscuits and gravy and more shiitake puns in the near future. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Portraiture

Last night, we attempted to capture our favorite critters in o-lantern form. Our favorite cat friend was my muse, while Matt attempted the chicken punim (a far more challenging subject). 

The cat-and-chicken-o-lanterns...

After the hard labor was through we enjoyed some roasted pumpkin seeds. I tossed the seeds in vegetable oil, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. They then cooked (with frequent stirs) in a 325 degree oven for about 45 minutes. 

Not a bad reward for cleaning out a 23 lb. pumpkin...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teenage Girls

Sometime last week I told my mother that we'd be picking up our flock over the weekend.  Being the truly accepting woman that she is, she responded with a joke about becoming a grandmother...  

Following my mother's logic, Matt and I became parents to four teenage girls over the weekend.  Nothing against teenage girls, I was once one myself, but I'm pretty damn glad that we're really just talking poultry. 

Our four sisters were hatched on June 25th, and won't be laying for another few weeks-- officially qualifying them as teenagers, or pullets in chicken terms.

Like any good parent, I think my ladies are just the cutest darn chickens I've ever seen.  And, like most teenagers, whenever I get too close they take off running.  

That said, the ladies seem to be cluing in to who refills their feed bowl and chases off cats.  I think they'll make it through their teenage months just fine.

Not unlike teenage girls, the ladies have separation anxiety (from each other), and play a constant game of follow the leader.  However, flocking is definitely a more endearing phenomenon in poultry than humans.  

Plus, unlike every teenager ever, our flock seems happiest whilst pecking for worms in the bushes. Human teenagers seem to prefer smoking cigarettes and guzzling energy drinks in the dilapidated structure behind our house, but I digress...

All silly comparisons aside, I'm really quite thrilled to have some barnyard animals. The ladies are a good place to start growing our family, and should bring lots of joy and tasty eggs.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Getting Acquainted

A couple months ago our landlord nicely gave us backyard-poultry clearance. We then waited patiently to get all our proverbial chickens in a row (coop, chicken $$, time, etc). Finally, today, we picked up our 4-bird flock. The ladies are busy getting settled, and the cat seems to be both terrified and mesmerized. More details and cute chicken pictures to come!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Friday Baking

Last Friday I ended up with some unexpected free time. The weather was fairly unpleasant, so I headed to the store for three items: butter, sugar, and cream cheese. I used to avoid butter, but these days I'm a butter evangelist. We've all got to believe in something, eh? 

With my loot I baked two things: cookies and cupcakes. My "relaxing afternoon," resulted in a sugary weekend, but we both made it to Monday sans diabetes. Victory.

First up are the cookies....

I have made these cookies several times, and they are top notch. Plus the recipe only uses one stick of butter, so they are practically health food. I realized we had no brown sugar after I made my trip to the store, so I ended up just adding half a tablespoon of molasses (as brown sugar is just sugar + molasses). The molasses made these cookies even better than usual.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies  (adapted from this recipe)

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 T molasses
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups oatmeal
AT LEAST 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat Oven to 325°  F
Cream together butter, sugar and molasses with a stand mixer (paddle attachment), or with a hand mixer. Add vanilla and egg, and mix. Add all dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, oatmeal, salt) and stir together until dough comes together. Do not over mix!  Mix in chocolate chips, and then drop large spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes! 

Now for the cupcakes...

All week I'd wanted carrot cake. I'm not sure if it is normal to want cake for so long, but by Friday I decided to go ahead and eat some damn carrot cake. However, I decided the carrot cake must be homemade, which prompted my afternoon of baking.

I started with a recipe from All Recipes, and then reduced the sugar, upped the carrots, added some whole wheat flour, doubled the cinnamon, added nutmeg, etc. I failed to record any of this, so all I can do is show off my nice looking cupcakes. To make the frosting I used the whisk attachment on my mixer and combined 8 oz of cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, and all the powdered sugar I could find in the cabinet (maybe a about half a cup). 


And don't worry Mother, if you are concerned about my blood sugar levels you should know that on Sunday I gave away no less than seven cupcakes. I think that cancels everything else out. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

How to Make Tortillas

I had a request for a tortilla-making post! Here you go Brissie!

Corn tortillas are surprisingly easy and economical to make yourself. Last night I made tortillas for 3 for about $1. This benefit aside, homemade tortillas are soft, warm, and preservative free. You need 3 ingredients for tortillas:
  • Corn Flour (which often goes by its Spanish name, masa harina, at the store) 
  • Water
  • A little bit of salt (a bit less than a teaspoon).
Pretty darn easy. Here are my dry ingredients ready to go...

To make tortillas for two people (with very healthy appetites)  I use 1 3/4 cup corn flour and 1 1/8 cup water. Last night, I adjusted this ratio for 3 people. I'd be embarrassed to explain how I calculated the changes, as I am certain most everyone I know would find a better way to do the math than I did (there was a drawing involved).

Once the water, salt and, flour are all in your bowl start mashing away with a fork. After the dough begins to come together hand knead it until smooth. Ultimately you want a soft (not sticky) ball of dough. If you need to add a little extra water or flour to achieve this, then go for it.

Your ball should look like this...

Let the ball solidify for about 5 minutes, and then slice it into smaller sections.  Use the sections to make small dough balls that will become individual tortillas (usually about 6-8 per normal recipe).

Take one of the dough balls and squish it flat on a piece of wax paper.  Cover it with another piece of wax paper and roll out the dough out from the middle. The wax paper is essential. If you try to roll your dough without the paper, then you will end up with a serious corn mess. Take my word for it.

My tortillas usually end up looking a little misshapen. I think this one looks like the state of Alaska, but it still makes a great taco.

Next, carefully peel the tortilla off the paper and drop it into a greased pan on medium heat. Let the tortilla cook for about 45 seconds on each side, and then place somewhere warm. I usually turn the oven on to 170 degrees and keep the tortillas covered with a towel until they are all ready to go.

Buen provecho. :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Fall Adventure

We spent last weekend at a rustic island resort on the Skagit River by Marblemount, WA.

With the increasing precipitation, and decreasing daylight and temperatures, taking a bike trip seemed like the best use of the last weekend in September. So, we loaded our bikes with camping and fishing gear and headed East. Friday afternoon was quite beautiful, and I felt lucky to be traveling up the Cascade Trail.

Less than a mile outside of the one and only Concrete, WA Matt broke 3 spokes. Unfortunately (and quite obviously) this ended the bicycle leg of our journey. The final leg, and trip home, involved riding in a car. Neither of us had done so since early-mid July, and it was a bit sad to end our car-free streak. This is really another topic for another time, but I will say that 60 mph felt unbelievably fast, and frankly a bit terrifying.

However, one part of our mission was a great success. Matt caught a big old fish, and it has subsequently been smoked and eaten (with generous amounts of cream cheese).  

My pops (a master angler and fish smoker) gave us some excellent smoking tips that resulted in some delicious fish. In my less mature days I would complain that I did not like the smell his fish smoking generated.  I also used to call him a fish-murderer. It's not very flattering to own my kvetching, but I suppose these things always come full circle. Sorry Pops!